It’s easy to understand why a retailer would move into online trading – most already have. But when pure play e-tailers start opening stores on the high street, it seems counterintuitive, especially in today’s internet culture where everything can be accessed and bought at the click of a mouse.
Evolving to keep up with retail’s ever-changing landscape is essential – Woolworths and BHS have both been affected by their inability to adapt, among other challenges. So given that the high street has failed so many well-loved stores, what is driving online brands to take physical space? And what lessons can be learnt for the future?
Shopping is no longer an act of necessity, it is an act of fulfilment and consumers are increasingly demanding a shopping experience, such as the one offered in John Lewis’s new ‘Smart Homes’ department. Reaching customers at every touchpoint is important. With so much choice available, retailers are drowned out online and struggle to compete – in store there is a deeper emotional connection between the brand and its customers.
One trend that has emerged is that customers, by and large, no longer go to stores purely to buy – they go to explore a brand and its products, treating the shop floor as a showroom before, in a lot of cases, returning home to investigate, validate and purchase online. Creating a shopping experience where online and offline shopping intersects will prove most successful to today’s retailers, and is one of the reasons why online brands are being forced to compliment their product offering with a physical space.
Staying relevant is also imperative – while BHS has a special place in the heart of the British shopper, it was, among other things, too slow moving to change.
The internet, international competition and the recession have made consumers really analyse what they spend their money on – and where. As many make the leap from clicks to bricks, store fit outs become more innovative and unique in an attempt to entice shoppers. How this will affect the retail landscape is still unclear but one thing is for certain: in today’s shopping environment, the consumer is definitely king.